With a salty rim and tart grapefruit juice, the Salty Dog is a simple vodka cocktail — or gin cocktail, if you prefer — and is excellent for summertime.
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Salty Dog recipe
Two-ingredient cocktails are the best way to whip up a quick-and-easy refreshment.
But what if you want to take them up a notch, even just a tiny one? You can do it easily with the addition of another ingredient, bitters, garnishes or a salt rim.
The Greyhound drink is the perfect example: If you add margarita salt to the rim of this pink grapefruit juice cocktail, its name changes to the “Salty Dog” cocktail.
Let’s get to know this sweet-sour-and-salty grapefruit cocktail that can be made with vodka or gin.
Why you’ll love this recipe
Sweet, sour and salty are the ultimate trio in this cocktail! It’s going to be one of your favorite summer drinks because…
- With only three ingredients, the Salty Dog is easy to make.
- It is packed full of flavor! Sweet-and-sour grapefruit gets balanced with salt and a punch of vodka or gin.
- You can customize it with your favorite gin or vodka, flavored simple syrup or fancy salt rims.
What is a Salty Dog cocktail?
The Salty Dog cocktail is a riff on the Greyhound drink, which is made with grapefruit juice and either gin or vodka. The Salty Dog is much the same drink — the only difference is it gets a salted rim.
The recipe dates back to the 1930 publication of The Savoy Cocktail Book by Harry Craddock. Though often made with vodka today, the original recipe included gin.
According to Masterclass, it got its name in 1945, when Harper’s Magazine printed the recipe, supposedly because it was popular at the Post House restaurant at many Greyhound bus terminals.
Tools & glassware
To make this cocktail, you don’t need a lot of special equipment. You can use a cocktail shaker or mix it right in the glass.
However, you will need some kind of juicer if you plan to use fresh grapefruit juice.
You’ll also want a jigger to measure the ingredients and a sharp knife to get that perfect grapefruit garnish.
If you choose a taller glass, you should use a 1:2 ratio of booze to grapefruit juice.
You only need two ingredients to make this easy cocktail.
Fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice is the best in this cocktail, but store-bought is fine, too.
If you choose to juice, it will be a little easier to juice grapefruit if it’s room temperature.
You can use any kind of juicer, but my favorite is my electric juicer.
If you use citrus a lot and have the cabinet space, you will NOT regret getting one of these, I promise! It makes juicing citrus so easy — you can use it for lemons, oranges and limes too. It does a great job of getting allllll the juice out of each fruit.
You can also use a citrus squeezer (though it will take some hand strength!), a reamer or a hand juicer. Here are some of my favorite juicers:
Vodka or gin
For a Salty Dog, you can use either vodka or gin. Both are clear spirits, but their flavors differ significantly, which changes the taste of this two-ingredient cocktail.
Vodka gives this cocktail a stronger grapefruit flavor, as the vodka takes a backseat to the sweet and bitter citrus. Most Greyhound and Salty Dog cocktails are made with vodka these days.
Conversely, gin has more floral, herbaceous notes that the sour grapefruit helps to highlight. Gin was the original choice for this cocktail, but it was later made with vodka to appeal to more palates.
I prefer gin because the resulting cocktail is a bit more balanced yet full-bodied thanks to the additional flavors, but you can go either way here.
You could go for tequila — or even jalapeño tequila — and you could call this a Salty Chihuahua.
Sea salt or kosher salt both work well. I don’t recommend using regular table salt, as the iodine gives it a too-salty flavor.
Try to use coarse salt; however, a flaky salt will be too coarse. Look for something in the middle.
Salty Dog Garnishes
You can garnish a Salty Dog with a wedge of grapefruit, a grapefruit slice or a piece of grapefruit zest. For a pop of color, add a lime wedge as well or instead.
A sprig of rosemary also adds some color to the drink.
You can also have lots of fun with the salt rim. You can use any flavored salt like grapefruit citrus salt.
Salty Dog Variations
The great thing about two-ingredient drinks is they are easy to customize. You can mix it up by switching to flavored vodka, like hatch chile vodka, or using a flavorful salt on the rim, such as Bloody Mary salt.
Here are some of the best Salty Dog variations to try:
- Greyhound: Skip the salt rim to make your Salty Dog a Greyhound cocktail.
- Salty Chihuahua: Use tequila instead of vodka.
- Dalmatian: This spiced version is made with black pepper syrup.
- Italian Greyhound: A splash of Aperol puts an Italian twist on this grapefruit drink, à la the Aperol Spritz.
- Sea Breeze: Add some cranberry juice to make a cross between the Cape Codder and the Greyhound.
Another great grapefruit cocktail is the Paloma, a tequila and grapefruit cocktail. This one also gets a splash of grapefruit soda.
Here are some more Salty Dog variations to try:
How to make a Salty Dog drink
Making this Salty Dog cocktail recipe is super simple!
- Get out a rocks glass. (A collins glass also works).
- Then, pour some coarse salt onto a plate.
- Rub a lime wedge (or a grapefruit wedge) around the edge of the glass. Roll the rim of the glasses in the salt to coat the rim. (Here’s a tutorial on how to properly rim a glass.)
- Then, fill the glass with ice cubes. Add the vodka (or gin) and top with grapefruit juice. Give it a gentle stir.
- Garnish the drink with a slice of grapefruit or lime.
Tips & tricks
Here are some tips and tricks for making the Classic Salty Dog:
- Use fresh citrus juice if at all possible. It will give your drink a sweeter, fresher flavor than store-bought juice.
- Room-temperature citrus will produce juice much easier than refrigerated citrus.
- Use citrus, not water, to rim the glass. The sugars in the juice help the salt to stick to the rim better. You can use fresh lime juice or grapefruit juice.
What to serve with a Salty Dog
Grapefruit is a unique flavor that goes with both creamy and sweet ingredients, which help to balance the tart quality.
Grapefruit also goes well with fish, so try it with popcorn shrimp or fish tacos.
The Salty Dog gets its name from the Greyhound cocktail, which is a cocktail made with grapefruit and either gin or vodka. When the Greyhound drink has a salt rim, it gets the moniker “Salty Dog.” And if tequila is used instead, it can be called a “Salty Chihuahua.”
The Salty Dog cocktail contains either vodka or gin. It can also be made with tequila, and then you can call it a “Salty Chihuahua.”
While both are grapefruit cocktails with salt rims, the Salty Dog is made with vodka or gin and the Paloma is made with tequila. The Paloma also gets a splash of grapefruit soda. If you skip the salt rim of a Salty Dog, the drink is called a Greyhound.
More two-ingredient cocktails
If you like easy 2-ingredient cocktails, try one of these delicious concoctions:
- The Tootsie Roll cocktail is made with root beer and coffee liqueur — tastes just like the candy!
- Make a Whiskey Ginger — one of my favorite refreshing drinks!
- A Vodka Cranberry is another go-to of mine when I’m out at a bar!
- The Rum & Coke is a classic one made with rum and your favorite cola.
— Did you make this recipe? —
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Salty Dog Drink
- 2 ounces gin or vodka
- 4 ounces grapefruit juice
- coarse salt for rim
- grapefruit slice for garnish
- lime slice for garnish
- Pour some salt onto a plate. Rub a lime wedge (or a piece of grapefruit) around the edge of a rocks glass. Roll the rim of the glass in the salt to coat the rim.
- Then, fill the glass with ice.
- Add the vodka (or gin) and top with grapefruit juice. Give it a gentle stir.
- Garnish with a slice of grapefruit or lime.
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